I remember how excited I was when finally, at 13, I got my period for the first time. My mom and her sisters greeted me with such excitement and HUGE smiles when I shared the news in my mom’s kitchen. “Today you are a woman!” they chorused, before giving me gentle slaps on the cheek – an old, Eastern European custom meant to keep the rosiness in your complexion when menstruation – and pregnancy – drain it. Little did we all know that I would only get a few more periods during the next several years. Eventually, years later, I found out that PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) was the cause for that personal shame that I shared with no one. At 19, I was told by a gynecologist that I would never, ever conceive. And that was that.
I lived with the knowledge that I would never be a mother for many years. I turned that knowledge into hell-bent determination that I would shut that desire out of my life, mind, and psyche, declaring to anyone who would listen that there were enough children in my family and I didn’t need to add to the global population anyway. Yeah, right. I wanted to be a mom more than anything else on the planet and when I finally allowed myself to admit that to myself it was like bleeding out. I couldn’t stave off the desire, nor did I want to. Luckily, techniques and treatments had evolved from the bad-old days of my teenaged years. Pregnancy, and motherhood, were possibilities for someone with my diagnosis by the time I married at 30.
And so we began to try. Was it easy? Are you kidding? Nothing about infertility, or its treatments, is easy. But like so many millions of people the world over, I didn’t let anything stop me. Not the daily blood tests, that I loathed. Not the cost, that I had to creatively surmount. Not the disappointment that crushed me when IUI after IUI failed. Not the pain I felt when my first IVF cycle was cancelled because I hyper-stimulated. Not the unending emotional pain, or loss of friendships because the women in my life didn’t get it. Not the ticking of the clock, or the months, or the years of endurance required because it didn’t work again. And again. And again.
And today, I am a mom. I gave birth to two tiny, very-earIy babies who have grown up into two, very amazing adults. Every day, still, I live in gratitude for the brain trust behind my ability to become a mom. Easy? No. Worth it? Guess.